Monday, May 31, 2010

Throughout the night, there was a ton of rain, plus some lightning and thunder. Also, the temperature dropped considerbly, to the point that it was actually a bit chilly when we woke up at 4:00 am. We had a small breakfast, and then took a boat upstream towards an oxbow lake. The boat ride was about 30 minutes, and then we got out and walked for a short while before getting to the lake. On the walk, we saw a number of palm trees that looked like fishtail palms, but weren't. Justin vowed to figure out what they were, so if nothing else we could plant them in Hawaii.

On the lake, we were in a small boat that was directed with paddles and a pole, like a giant mokoro. On the lake, we saw some black caimans, albeit from far away. Even farther away were the giant river otters, but at least we were able to see them. There are very few in the wild, and most of them are in areas very difficult to get to. Although they are called river otters, most of them live in oxbow lakes just off of rivers. We saw some birds as well, include Huatzins and a Plumbeous Ibis.

We went piranha fishing, and one of the Australians caught a yellow-bellied piranha.

On the way back to the dock, we saw a Kingfisher and a Caracara. On the walk back to the river, we saw the local stinging tree, and had the good sense not to touch it. We also saw one of the trees that the ants protect - if you touch the tree the ants come out the bark and attack you. We had the good sense not to touch that one either. Justin chatted for a bit with Yuri, and asked why we were seeing the clay lick in the middle of the day. At the Tambopata research center, people go out first thing in the morning, because that's when all the birds arrive. Justin asked why it was different here. Yuri said that since the clay lick is much smaller, not all the birds can go at the same time, so the parrots and parakeets go first thing in the morning, and then the macaws come later. Justin asked if we could go see the parrots and parakeets the next morning, since nothing was scheduled. Yuri graciously said he would take whomever wanted to go.

After getting back to the resort, we took a short walk to the local clay lick, hoping to spot macaws, parrots, and parakeets. It was still cool, and still overcast, outside, and Yuri told us that this generally leads to the birds not coming to the clay lick. The reason for this is when it is overcast, they can't see as well, and can't tell as well whether there are hawks, eagles, or other predators around. So while we saw them circling from afar, and heard them now and then, we didn't see them up close like we were hoping for. We sat and waited in the hide, and sat and waited, and sat and waited. Dejected, we finally left, and then saw some in a tree that was basically right above our hide, probably 50 feet up. They stayed in place, and while they did, we got some faraway shots, plus took some shots and video through Yuri's telescope.

As we were about to leave, we saw a howler monkey, also right above the hide, and while watching the howler monkey, a bunch of macaws landed right next to the clay lick. At this point, we went back into the hide, and watched the macaws for a bit. The were bright red and green, and there were close to a dozen of them.

After we watched for 30 minutes or so, we went back to the resort, just as lunch was ending. Thankfully, Yuri was able to convince the kitchen to make some more food for us - we were all starving. After lunch, we took a short nap, then went on an excursion to a local medicinal garden. There were lots of interesting plants, including Para Para (the local viagra/aphrodisiac) and Chuchuhuasi (pain reliever/muscle relaxant). We also got an explanation of the local hallucagenic drug, Ayahuasca, which we won't be trying anytime soon.

At the end of the walk, we got to do some "shots" of the drinks, which tasted quite a bit like dirt - probably not too surprising. Back at the resort, we went into the bar before dinner, and talked for awhile with a big group of Aussies. They had come from Melbourne, and we talked about the fires in Victoria, fires in California, other travel we had done, and other travel we had scheduled for this trip. Crystal commented that Justin seemed like he could pass for an Australian (minus the accent, of course) - he took this as a compliment, and assumed Crystal meant it as such. At dinner, our table talked about Peruvian politics, with Yuri and Miguel telling us about the current administration, and how they hoped Peru would get another Fujimori. Apparently - according to them - Fujimori was good because he treated all the people equally, even if that meant that everyone got treated like crap. Since then, the gap between rich and poor has widened considerably, and all of the power and money is concentrated in a very small group of people. Fortunately we were all tired, so the political talk didn't go on for too long, and we went to bed early again.